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Sting (Film Review)

2 min read
Still image from Sting: A young girl shines a torch on her hand in a dark room, illuminating a small black spider.

Image: Studio Canal

There's been a fair share of creature features recently. In 2023 alone we had Slotherhouse, Meg 2: The Trench, and Cocaine Bear. Heck, there are even two flicks releasing this month that star eight-legged fiends. One of them, Sting, is a claustrophobic horror comedy with great ideas that don't quite string together well. 

Australian writer and director Kiah Roache-Turner pits an alien spider that crash lands in an apartment block against its residents, which includes your typical family unit that takes centre stage in the narrative. Charlotte (Alyla Browne) is a rebellious and creative twelve-year-old who has a contentious relationship with her overworked mother Heather (Penelope Mitchell) and stepdad Ethan (Ryan Corr). She finds the spider, at this stage the size of a small house spider, and decides to keep it as a pet (Charlotte, inspired by The Hobbit novel, names it Sting). It doesn't take long for chaos to unfold as the intelligent creature finds victims and grows at a frightening pace. 

On paper, the domestic drama has engrossing depth. It highlights a modern family struggling with raising a newborn, as well as a twelve-year-old, whilst working multiple jobs. A key relationship is between Charlotte and Ethan, as they get along but the pressures of being a stepdad fitting into a family unit often cause unintended rifts. Unfortunately, these elements don't quite tie into the horror; tying up character arcs through surface-level dialogue in an attempt to keep the plot moving. 

Audiences won't necessarily be here for a family drama, but the horror thrills are also lacking in places. Whilst a large portion of moviegoers appreciate a swift 90-minute runtime, Sting could have benefitted from an extra twenty minutes not just for expanding the family drama but for the set pieces too. Particularly in the latter half of the film, the horror action is over even before it can even begin after building up by-the-book suspense. One gory quick kill aside, there isn't a satisfying payoff when the eventual giant spider goes on the hunt.     

What makes Sting frustratingly disappointing is that there are flashes of brilliance. The stylish opening credits sequence sees the titular Sting, having just crash-landed in a tiny meteorite egg, innocently navigate a dollhouse – immediately setting up the horror comedy tone. And the film's only extended kill is deliciously awful, pitting a tragic neighbourly character against the tiny predator who seems to torment her before realising the fears most of us have about arachnids entering certain orifices. Weta work their magic once again with superb creature FX and practical elements that will delight horror fans, which perhaps still makes the film worth seeing on the big screen. 

There is much to praise here: the technical work, the influences applied (Alien being the most notable), the ambition. But Sting's web of drama, comedy and horror falls apart thanks to key moments simultaneously dragging out and being over too soon in the wrong places.  

Sting releases in UK cinemas on May 31.